Columns

Throwing down the gauntlet for Cuba

BY OSVALDO CARDENAS

Wednesday, March 12, 2014    

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I feel moved to respond to the article written by Anton E Edmunds, titled 'Cuba — A growing threat to the Caribbean?' in the Jamaica Observer edition off Monday, February 17, 2014.

Mr Edmunds' article is based on unsubstantiated assumptions that have been repeated with few seriously challenging them. As a Cuban, and as a Jamaican, I throw down the gauntlet on the issue.

Throughout half a century I have read hundreds of articles and statements that describe Cuba as a threat to the mighty US, although Cuba is 86 times smaller in territory. The US has 28 times the population of Cuba; it is the wealthiest country on earth with the most powerful army in human history and it is situated 90 miles from the shores of this little humble Third World country. Nevertheless, they insist the superpower is the country in danger, although no one has ever explained what the danger is.

The US argument in the early years of the Revolution was that Cuba was a surrogate of the Soviet Union, a nation more than 10,000 kilometres away from Cuba. Based on this argument the Kennedy Administration imposed an economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba in the early 1960s. The real aim was to remove the Cuban Government by any means and it did not matter how much support the Revolutionary Government had among the Cuban people.

US hostility against Cuba, as history has proven, was not because there were not democratic elections, freedom of expression or a legal opposition, as is demonstrated today in the US treatment of the governments of Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Argentina whose countries have democratic elections, opposition parties and a private sector which dominate most of the media.

To my surprise the threat now, according to Mr Edmunds, seems to be the Caribbean leaders' call during the Latin American and Caribbean State Summit in Havana for equality, the creation of a zone of peace, and the lifting of the more than half-century-old US embargo against Cuba. Those are legitimate concerns of the leaders and the people of Latin America and the Caribbean, and I do not see any reason for Caribbean leaders to be silent on these issues.

The Caribbean Community heads were the first in this hemisphere, after the governments of Mexico and Canada, to challenge US policy to isolate Cuba, when in 1972 the four independent Caricom governments established diplomatic relations with Cuba. I believe those leaders were proven to be visionaries when, in October 2013, for the 22nd consecutive time the vast majority of the countries of the world in the United Nations General Assembly voted to end the US embargo against Cuba, and on this occasion only the US and Israel voted against.

I know there are people who believe everything in this world is about money, but fortunately most of us know that is not the case; justice, decency, human solidarity, and love are fundamental to human existence and well-being. I hope Mr Edmunds is not calling in his article for Caribbean governments to join the US and Israel in supporting this inglorious and abominable policy.

The idea that Cuba will take away the investments from other Caribbean territories is preposterous firstly because those investments do not belong to Jamaica, Caricom, or anyone. Why is Cuba the threat and not Mexico that has a free trade agreement with the US and is the second largest country in size and population in Latin America and the Caribbean, just to mention a case?

It is interesting that the manipulation of the issue of human rights by the international media, dominated by the US and some EU countries, allows a double standard. When nationals of the US, England and other EU states support activities organised by countries considered to be enemies of these states they can easily be considered to be criminal offenders against state security. This is continuously demonstrated in 'the war on terror'. Yet, in Cuba, when its citizens are supported by the US Interests Section in acts that seek to destabilise Cuba, any attempt by the Cuban Government to sanction this conduct is labelled by the international media as breaches of human rights.

As obtains in any other country, not everybody agrees with the government, but the so-called opposition or dissidents in Cuba are a very small group of people, most of them financed and supported by the US Interests Section, as the US Mission in Havana is called.

The persistence of confrontation in the relations between the superpower US and Cuba introduced the possibility of a conflict that could even take a military dimension, as was demonstrated during the Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961 or the missiles crisis in 1962, such a situation could affect the security of all the Caribbean region. I am sure no one in their rational mind — beyond maybe some ultra-right wing Cuban-Americans in Florida — want something like that to happen.

Recent information indicates the majority of the US population, Cubans and Cuban Americans in US favour the resumption of the relations between both countries. The US and Cuba will eventually normalise relations in a complex process that may take years. They will have to deal with a socialist and revolutionary Cuba that will preserve the best of its achievements over more than half a century, with a dynamic and patriotic private sector with foreign investments, and the dominant heights of the economy in the hands of the state in representation of the society, and as a guarantee of social justice and equality of opportunities for all. In all, a more democratic Cuba with greater freedoms socially and individually.

I do not think tourists coming from the US to Jamaica and other Caribbean territories will move away to Cuba as soon as the prohibition of US citizens from visiting that island is removed. That proposition is absolutely ridiculous. Jamaica is an English-speaking country with many cultural and religious similarities with the US. It has a brand name, excellent services, is one of the musical centres in the world, has the fastest athletes and a beautiful and imaginative population. I suspect the possibility for a large tourist multi-destination vacation will develop in a short time, and Cuba placed between Jamaica and US is ideal for such possibility.

The challenge the Caribbean faces is to creatively develop its resources to take advantage of its position in the world. Governments must introduce the changes that are necessary to increase economic efficiency, to be more competitive, protect the environment, to improve education, health, and the living standards of the population, to remove extreme poverty and marginalisation, and effectively control crime. This is regionwide and valid for Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, etc.

The normalisation of relations between the US and Cuba will generate an incredible economic dynamic in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Many business opportunities that we do not even see now will develop with all the educational, cultural and creative potential of Cuba and the entrepreneurial and financial resources of the Cuban-Americans, encouraged by the opportunities to access the largest markets in the world. That environment will benefit everyone in the Caribbean, as Cuba will be a large market for goods and services for the other territories. Cuba's assistance and cooperation with the other Caribbean territories should not be underestimated, because the philosophy that guides the Cuban Government is that of cooperation and solidarity with their neighbours as has been consistently proven with Cuba's assistance in education and health to Jamaica and other countries in Caricom, especially the extraordinary role of the Cuban doctors in Haiti, Venezuela and Central American countries.

If you want to talk about dangers to the Caribbean, let's talk about what will happen to PetroCaribe if the opposition overthrows the legitimate Government in Venezuela.

Osvaldo Cardenas is the vice-president of the Association of Cuban Residents in Jamaica.

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